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Twilight at Stonehenge (circa 1840). Watercolour by William Turner of Oxford
Image credit Wikimedia Commons
Standing stone on the North York Moors
A Dream of Solstice
Qual e’ colui che somniando vede,
che dopo ‘l sogno la passione impressa
rimane, e l’altro a la mente non riede,
cotal son io…
Dante, Paradiso, Canto XXXIII
‘Like somebody who sees things when he’s dreaming
And after the dream lives with the aftermath
Of what he felt, no other trace remaining,
So I live now’, for what I saw departs
And is almost lost, although a distilled sweetness
Still drops from it into my inner heart.
It is the same with snow the sun releases,
The same as when in wind, the hurried leaves
Swirl round your ankles and the shaking hedges
That had flopped their catkin cuff-lace and green sleeves
Are sleet-whipped bare. Dawn light began stealing
Through the cold universe to County Meath,
Over weirs where the Boyne water, fulgent, darkling,
Turns its thick axle, over rick-sized stones
Millennia deep in their own unmoving
And unmoved alignment. And now the planet turns
Earth brow and templed earth, the crowd grows still
In the wired-off precinct of the burial mounds,
Flight 104 from New York audible
As it descends on schedule into Dublin,
Boyne Valley Centre Car Park already full,
Waiting for seedling light on roof and windscreen.
And as in illo tempore people marked
The king’s gold dagger when he plunged it in
To the hilt in unsown ground, to start the work
Of the world again, to speed the plough
And plant the riddled grain, we watch through murk
And overboiling cloud for the milted glow
Of sunrise, for an eastern dazzle
To send first light like share-shine in a furrow
Steadily deeper, farther available,
Creeping along the floor of the passage grave
To backstone and capstone, holding its candle
Under the rock-piled roof and the loam above.
There are five such stones on this stretch of the old Roman road between Egton Bridge and the ford at Wheeldale Gill, three of which have rectangular holes cut in them. The stones’ shape and height suggest they may once have been part of an earlier megalithic structure. See our earlier feature here.
Hurler’s Update: 22 September 2013 by Roy Goutté
The northern end of the pavement petering out well short of the northernmost circle
Finally I got to visit personally what I had been waiting months to see and take part in… the excavation at the acclaimed quartz pavement or walkway first discovered back in 1938 between the two northernmost of the three stone circles known as The Hurler’s at Minions in Cornwall. However, I was in for a couple of surprises, for once fully exposed, the pavement proved to be predominantly of locally sourced granite stones and not quartz at all. Further to that, the pavement did not extend to either circle, falling short by some 12-15ft to the southern end and some 25-30ft to the north. After speaking at length to Cornwall Historic Environment Projects archaeologist James Gossip, I felt this was not expected and has now cast doubt on its real purpose!
A mid section of pavement showing very lumpy ‘locally’ sourced granite stones and not quartz as expected
James is a very enthusiastic and open minded archaeologist who it is a pleasure to talk to and work alongside and always up for a challenge, something that now seems much more likely at the Hurlers because, as the following short video clip will show, the ‘pavement’ would be quite a challenge in itself to survive without turning an ankle or two if trying to walk its length.
Uncovering the pavement while James Gossip comments on the work
On viewing the clip (which is just a small part of a more extensive one) you will notice the red sweater draped over the closest stone to the southern end of the pavement and the distance between it and the end of said pavement. It is a purposely finished end indicated by the clean cut of the stones and just beyond it an area has been cleared exposing the original untouched surface level. Soil analysis is taking place today (23 September) with material taken for dating if available. The vid clip will show a much taller pointed upright stone set amongst the pavement stones and it is possible that a section may be removed here for further study on the day. A metre either side of the original 1938 trench was opened up this time and in quite a few places areas of ‘activity’ could be seen with different coloured soils evident amongst sections of stones which all adds to the mystery as to what exactly we have here.
The precise southern end termination of the ‘pavement’ showing the original reddish ground surface beyond it
I would like to thank James personally for allowing me to enter the site and film at will and to discuss things with him and also to Ann Preston-Jones, Senior Archaeologist, Historic Environment (Projects) Cornwall Council, for keeping me informed as to the various projects taking place in this area. This was my first day out after my recent health problems and I couldn’t think of a more pleasant way to spend an hour or two and to meet up with James again. Thanks James and also to my son Oliver who accompanied me on my first tentative steps out.
Update by Roy Goutté.
After two wet and windy days at Minions, the weather was to relent yesterday (18 September) which coincided nicely with the commencement of the excavation for the quartz pavement. Due to health issues I was unable to attend the dig as previously arranged so am very grateful to Mike Honey for generously providing me and the Trust with the following video clip which is copyright.
I hope to follow this later with a selection of still photographs provided again by Mike and further video clips as the dig progresses.
Video courtesy Mike Honey
See also our earlier feature here.